Sports has a unique way of creating a lasting impression upon its loyalists — whether it is the unexpected or all-but-assured, beholding history is something that draws us to sports time and again. We all stay glued to the screens, in anticipation of what is there to come, with no definitive outcome in sight -- the unpredictability of the game, and the rise and fall of some of the best athletes the world has ever seen. While some of these moments become great due to their near-impossible nature, others have impacts that go even beyond the game itself. As great as some have been over the years, the ten moments recapped in the article were also deemed impossible at one time.
Disclaimer: Not based on rankings. The numbers are in no particular order.
#10 Lost By A Whisker
India lost the Champions Trophy final for the second successive time against Australia on penalty shootouts and settled for silver last year. Australia was the superior side in the penalty shootout after the match ended 1-1 in regulation time. It was a repeat of the 2016 final match when Australia got the better of India through a controversial penalty shootout. Manpreet Singh was the only Indian player who managed to convert his stroke while Sardar Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, and Lalit Upadhyay missed their strokes. Throughout the history of FIH Champions Trophy, India and Australia have played against each other a total of 17 times. India has only two wins to show from those meetings while Australia has won 13 of those times and two times, the match has ended in a high-scoring draw.
#9 Sindhu’s Rio Heartbreak
Ace Indian shuttler P V Sindhu’s silver streak deserves a special mention here. While a tired Sindhu would try her hardest each time she stepped on the court, a flurry of questions kept floating about her losses in the finals — big and small. With seven finals lost in-a-row since she won the Korean Open last year, it was only a matter of time before she bridged the narrowest of gaps and became the new world champion in badminton toppling Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in the finals of BWF World Championship this year in Switzerland. Sindhu bagged the elusive gold medal after her a long wait which resulted in her securing four medals earlier — bronze in 2013, 2014 and silver in 2017 and 2018.
#8 Silver Lining For Panghal
Amit Panghal has been one of India's most consistent boxers in the recent past. Ever since Panghal went on to win the bronze at Asian Championships in 2017, the 23-year-old has been on an upward trajectory. He put on a valiant effort but lost the intense 52kg final against Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov to settle with a historic silver at the World Boxing Championships this year. Panghal lost 0-5 to reigning Olympic champion Zoirov to win India's first silver medal by a male at the World Boxing Championships. Before this year, India had never won more than one bronze medal at a single edition of the world championships.
#7 0-6 Down And A Bronze!
Bajrang Punia put behind the disappointment of a heartbreaking semi-final defeat to finish with a bronze at Wrestling World Championships in Nur-Sultan on September 20 this year. Bajrang defeated Mongolia's Tulga Ochir 8-7 in the bronze medal match of the 65kg freestyle category. He has three World Championships medals, including podium finishes in successive editions. The Asian Games gold medallist had won his first World Championships medal -- a bronze in 2013. He finished with a silver in 2018 in Budapest.
#6 Mirabai Couldn’t ‘Lift’ World Championships
The star weightlifter from North-East, Mirabai Chanu did the country immensely proud yet again in 2019. The Padma Shri and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award recipient outdid herself at the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships but missed out on a podium, finishing a creditable fourth, in the women's 49kg event at the World Weightlifting Championships. Mirabai lifted a total of 201 kg (87 kg Snatch and 114 kg Clean & Jerk) to finish 4th in the rankings table. This personal best total also created a new national record in the 49kg category. Chanu is a weightlifter of exceptional caliber and she has won the World Championships several times and bagged medals for the country at the Commonwealth Games.
#5 Too Close Yet Too Far
Ace swimmer Virdhawal Khade was forced to miss many majors, including the Rio Olympics, and only came back to serious training in September 2017. In August last year, the 26-year-old painfully came close to a medal in the men’s 50m freestyle at the 18th Asian Games and missed the bronze by one-hundredth of a second. Perhaps, something impossible was at work for Khade. The world-class field included Japan’s Asian record holder Katsumi Nakamura, who shared the 2016 Asian meet gold with China’s Yu Hexin, but Khade stayed strong till the finish and watched in disappointment as Japan’s Shunichi Nakao took the bronze, clocking 22.46. Khade was fourth in 22.47.
#4 Second Loss For Mithali And Co.
The Indian women’s cricket team collapsed after a formidable England side prevailed over the Mithali-led Indian side on July 24, 2017, as Indian women suffered their second loss in the final of the World Cup. England’s Anya Shrubsole bowled an amazing spell with six wickets giving away only 46 runs, the best haul by a bowler in the final of any ICC event. England clinched the title in style after beating India by meagre nine runs at the Lord’s.
Bowler Jhulan Goswami picked up two wickets for India but in vain. With the early departure of Smriti Mandhana, Punam and Harmanpreet’s fifties did keep India in the hunt for some time. But a gritty Shrubsole just got the better of the Indians and had the last laugh.
#3 Drawn And Disqualified
The Indian women's football team missed out on an opportunity to qualify for the third round of the 2020 Olympic qualifiers after it was held to a 3-3 draw by Myanmar on April 9 this year. The Maymol Rocky-coached side, with an average age of 21, needed a win to top Group A of the Olympic qualifiers Round 2 but squandered the lead twice to play out a draw and bow out of the tournament. India and Myanmar got seven points each from three matches but the home team advanced to the third round on the basis of superior goal difference.
#2 Not Even A Bronze, Sania-Bopanna!
Although it is no fun to see your favorite sports team fall behind, the narrow semi-final defeat of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in mixed doubles at the Rio Olympics perhaps deserves a special mention in the list. The Indian duo went down fighting in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles tennis event to the US team of Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram at the Rio Olympics. The Indians won the first set quite comfortably before squandering the lead and going down 6-2, 2-6, 3-10 in one hour and 17 minutes at the Olympic Tennis Centre on August 14, 2016. The Americans thus went into the final and assured themselves of at least a silver.
#1 Not Winning Medals But Hearts
The 23-year-old Dipa Karmakar became the first woman gymnast from India to qualify for the Olympics. She didn’t win a medal but ranked an impressive fourth position in the women’s vault finals in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. American Simone Biles walked away with the top prize with a final score of 15.966.
Dipa received a final score of 15.066 for executing one of the most dangerous feats in gymnastics, the Produnova vault. While becoming the first Indian to qualify for the vault finals in her first Olympics, Dipa was also the first Indian gymnast to have qualified for the Olympics after 52 long years.